Ken Lyen's Home
Ken's Links
London Revisited 2000
Letter from London 2006
Singapore Musical Theatre
Making the Grade
Writing Musicals
Musicals from Movies
Fred Ebb
The Story of Chess
Mama Mia
Bad Vibrations
Chestnuts 2003
Chestnuts 2004
Chestnuts 2005
Incubating New Musicals
List of Musicals on Film
Is Musical Theatre Dead?
Is Classical Music Dead?
Is Poetry Dead?
Why Read Poetry?
New Words
Nothing's Wrong
Hippie Dictionary
Singlish Dictionary
Blog Dictionary
Best of the Best
English Spoke
Reading in Decline
Too Many Books
Magic of Reading
Pablo Neruda
Graphic Novels
Writers Bar
Lost For Words
Encyclopedia Wars
Library in Cyberspace
The Bridge
Growing A Film Industry
Great Levellers
Rote Rites and Rongs
Beautiful Minds
Create Talented Individuals?
Rise of the Creative Class
Perchance to Dream
Children's EQ
Gifted Education
Gifted Children
Mozart Effect
Confucius and Multiple Intelligences
Predicting Your Future
Mistyping Personality
Messy Homes
Does Age Matter?
Too Young for Philosophy?
Philosopher for Hire
Deconstructing Derrida
University Quotas
Ranking Universities
University Ranking Continued
The Future of Universities
If Thine Eye Offends Thee
If It Ain't Broke
New Exams for Old!
Too Many Test
The Sincerest Form of Flattery
Childhood Memories
Signs of Success
Follow Your Dreams
First Impressions
Handphone Etiquette
Handphones Silenced
Apple Of My i
Sex and the Media
The Greeks
Geographic Clangers
Domino Theory
Hello Kitty
Heels on Wheels
What a Racket!
Potty Training
Skip to the Loo
Corporal Punishment
Is Modern Art Rubbish?
Mona Lisa Grins
Sunday in the Park
Vision and Art
Spam Glorious Spam!
Humble Pie
Sour Grapes?
Murphy's Law Calculator
Perfect Search
False Logic
Noah's Ark
Who Discovered America?
Palaces of Dictators
Joys of Stress
Games Academics Play
Virtual Reality Treatmemt
Autistic Underconnectivity
Asperger Syndrome
Pay Attention!
Attention Deficit
Speech Delay
Almost Normal
Prozac Nation
Gilles de la Tourette
Singapore Medicine
Virtual Dissection
War Against Malaria
Into the Frying Pan
Back to Methuselah
Poetic Medicine
Far Eastern Economic Review
History of the Singapore Musical
My Research
Singapore Idle
Best Countries
Brain Drain
Greatest Happiness
Remaking Singapore
Singapore Nobel Prize
Singapore MRT Map
National Day
Caste System
Doctors' Fees
Leadership and Teambuilding
Doctor Do-Much
Play it Again, Doc
A Dose of Music
Prescription for the Heart
Multiple Personality
Fly By Night
Rape of Nanking
Iris Chang
Anne Frank
Angela's Ashes
The Notebook
Hollywood Insider
Fahrenheit 9/11 Pirates
The Front
The Barbarian Invasions
Les Choristes
The Return
Road Home
Farewell My Concubine
So You Want to be a Nurse
School House Rockz
Makan Place
e-mail me

Growing A Film Industry


Growing A Film Industry

by Kenneth Lyen

Last year, popular British comedies like "Love Actually" and "Calendar Girls", took in £742 million (= US$1.36 billion) from the UK box office. These British films and others, took in an additional US$1 billion from the American box office. This is a tremendous boost to the British film industry, which now employs over 57,000 people. Thanks to the expertise and film-friendly environment, the UK is now considered to be one of the best countries to make a film.

Singapore also aspires to be an internationally successful filmmaking nation. The Singapore Film Commission was set up specifically to foster our local film industry. Millions of dollars are being pumped into the industry. This includes grants for script development, a national screenwriting competition, grants for making short films, incubating promising feature films, co-production with overseas film companies, grants for overseas companies luring them to make films in Singapore, and travel grants for Singapore filmmakers to promote their films at overseas film festivals.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? So why isn’t the Singapore film industry thriving? There are several reasons.

First and foremost is the excessive censorship. Films made in Singapore may never be seen, or not seen in their entirety, by Singapore audiences. Even films like "Schindler’s List", "The Last Emperor", "Carrie", or "Four Weddings and a Funeral", have nude scenes deleted, and DVD sales banned. Just this week, the Singapore government banned the popular Taiwanese film "Formula 17" because it depicted gays. Our local filmmakers have suffered a similar fate. Local films like "Meepok Man", "Pain", "Bugis Street", "15", and others, have either been banned or severely cut. As a result, there is no way the filmmakers can recoup their investments through box-office takings or video sales in Singapore.

Unfortunately censorship has a more insidious effect on the film industry. It distorts screenwriting. I know, because I’m one. Screenwriters like myself are persuaded to remain politically correct (otherwise we might not get paid). We are prevailed upon to write scripts that do not transgress our film censors. This means we second guess what might offend them. Self-censorship is pervasive, and permeates all levels of film production, affecting the directors, producers, and distributors. The bottom line is that if we make a film that is cut or banned, we may never get investors to support us in future, plus we get put on the bureaucrat’s black list.

The second problem is underfunding. The film commission caps their grants to the feature films they support, and currently it is set at Singapore $250,000 (= US$145,000). Co-funding films with foreign film companies get double the amount of funding, which is capped at US$290,000. Any filmmaker of any calibre will burst out laughing. How can you make a decent film with such paltry sums? The amount is extremely low, even for Singapore standards. The authorities might point out that The Blair Witch Project was made for US$25,000, and grossed over US$140 million at the box office. What they do not realise is that The Blair Witch Project is a freak one-off success story. Inadequate funding forces producers to cut corners, lowering production values, and the net result, is a severely compromised film.

The third problem is a basic lack of understanding about the nature of the creative process by the bureaucrats who administer the funds. Filmmakers need to be trusted, and given a wide latitude to make films that they consider to be artistic. Too often films funded by the film commission are evaluated less by their artistic merits, and more by their box office takings. Hence risks and experimentation are discouraged, and the film industry's growth and maturation will remain stunted.

We dream to be a great filmmaking nation. But to enable us to achieve that potential, we need to be given the freedom to create. And yes. A couple of million bucks would definitely help.